Monsters in the closet, the boogie man, and creepy crawly things under my bed—as a little girl, both real and imagined fears dominated my thinking at bedtime. Like many children, I was afraid of going to sleep in the dark.
To combat these fears, I would pull the covers over my head, stick my hand out on top of the covers and pray, “Jesus, I’m scared. Please hold my hand.”
At some point, I outgrew this habit. None of my college roommates ever commented on my strange sleep positions, and for that I am grateful. But I could stand to learn something from my child-self.
Jesus wanted those around him to hear that they could learn from the faith of a child. Matthew 18:2-4 reads, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (ESV)
In Psalm 4:8, David identifies the Lord as his source of safety while he sleeps. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” David recognizes that his security does not lie in his friends, his soldiers, his wealth, or his home security system. This awareness and entrusting himself to the Lord’s protection are what allow him to lie down and sleep in peace.
I am reminded of the eloquent expression of faith written in the Heidelberg Catechism questions and answer #1:
What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.
We can trust the Lord with our safety and lie down in peace to sleep because He cares for us in such a way that nothing can happen to us without His knowledge and permission.
As a small child, I did not have the verbal articulation that David had in the Psalms, nor did I have a theologically rich understanding as displayed in the Heidelberg Catechism as to why I would be safe in the care of Jesus. Yet, a similar faith is demonstrated. Scared of the dark and hiding under the covers with just my hand poking out, I believed in faith that Jesus would hold my hand and keep me safe.
As an adult, I still sometimes wrestle with fears and worries in the middle of the night. But I can learn from my younger self. Jesus would not have mocked my childhood bedtime ritual. In Mark 10, he rebuked those who tried to prevent him from being bothered by children. He went even further when he said, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:16).
On those nights when I am not sleeping in peace at 3 am, it would be helpful for me to remember the lessons of a child—it is the Lord, and the Lord alone, who will be my safety. I can call to Him with simple words, and He will hear me.
If you wrestle with fears and worries when you would rather be sleeping, there are a myriad of things you might try. For the sake of keeping it simple, I will list only three of them here.
First, memorize Psalm 4:8 and remind yourself of this truth when lies from the enemy begin to plague you in the darkness of the night. If you are feeling adventurous, memorize the Heidelberg Catechism question and answer #1.
Second, keep a pen and paper next to your bed. Jot down your worries. Sometimes the simple act of writing them down to attend to later is enough to let them go for the night.
Third, monitor your caffeine intake during the day. I have known many people who claim that they are not affected by caffeine, but when they remove their afternoon cup of coffee, their sleep suddenly improves. As an embodied soul, you will always want to consider physiological issues that could be impacting you as well.
Ultimately, there is nothing that can happen to us that has not passed through the loving hand of our Father above. His plans for us are good (Rom. 8:28); He is trustworthy (Ps.18:30); He alone makes us dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8). Stick your hand out from under the covers. He is willing and able to hold it. Will you ask Him to?
If you still find yourself struggling with sleeping in peace, I encourage you to do two things. Reach out to your doctor and schedule an appointment to see if there might be an underlying physical cause and reach out to us at Hope. We are here to walk and talk with you through your struggles.